Army confirms dismissal of Captain for fake encounter in Amshipora that killed 3 men
New Delhi: The Army has confirmed the cashiering of Captain Bhoopendra Singh for killing three civilians in a staged encounter in south Kashmir’s Amshipora in July 2020 and dubbing them terrorists, officials said on Tuesday.
In the meantime, Singh secured a stay on his sentence of life imprisonment and a bail from the Armed Forces Tribunal.
According to officials in the know of the development, the findings of a Court of Inquiry and his conviction and sentencing were confirmed by the higher Army authorities on November 11 as required under the law.
Singh was brought to a civil jail in Jammu and later released on bail as per the directions of the tribunal on November 11 itself, they said.
According to the confirmation of the sentence, the officer was cashiered, or dismissed from service dishonourably. Singh, who joined the Army in 2015, will now be deprived of pension and all other benefits.
Three men hailing from Rajouri district of Jammu region — Imtiyaz Ahmed, Abrar Ahmed and Mohammed Ibrar — were killed in a remote hilly village in Shopian district on July 18, 2020 and labelled as “terrorists”.
In its 25-page order delivered on November 09 suspending his sentence, the tribunal said Singh could not have any motive for the action and conducted such an operation without the knowledge of his senior officer.
The tribunal, however, refused to stay his conviction and other punishments such as cashiering.
The tribunal’s principal bench here said, “As we have only stayed the sentence of conviction to the extent of undergoing the jail sentence, all other punishments like cashiering etc shall continue to remain in operation during the pendency of this appeal.”
The tribunal noted that the counsel for the Centre had sought permission to promulgate the findings and sentence by the confirming authority and then shift Singh to a civil jail to serve the rest of the sentence of life imprisonment.
It had directed the counsel to complete the proceedings by November 11.
Singh’s counsel Maj (Retd) Sudhanshu S Pandey expressed hope that the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) would expeditiously hear his petition against his conviction.
“A young officer has lost his job but we have complete faith in the judiciary and I am hopeful that justice will be done to him and his honour will be restored,” Pandey told PTI here.
While granting him bail, the tribunal said it would neither rely on the confessional statement given by another accused, Bilal Ahmed, who has been granted pardon by a civil court for turning approver in the case, nor that of the commanding officer of the 62 Rashtriya Rifles who claimed that he had no knowledge about the incident.
Following the killing of the three men, doubts were raised on social media, prompting the Army to constitute a Court of Inquiry (COI) which found prima facie evidence that the troops had “exceeded” powers vested under the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, or AFSPA.
The Court of Inquiry was followed by the summary of evidence, which was completed in the last week of December 2020.
Completing general court martial proceedings in less than a year, an Army court in March this year recommended life imprisonment for Captain Singh, subject to confirmation by higher Army authorities.
While granting him bail and suspending his sentence, the AFT had said, “The applicant has already been in custody for a period of about three years and therefore, it is a fit case where, prima facie, evidence available on record suggests that bail can be granted to the applicant by suspending the sentence.”
The tribunal said the totality of the evidence available on record clearly shows that there cannot be any motive for the applicant to eliminate three civilians and conduct such an operation without the knowledge of his senior officer.
The conditions put forth for the bail include that Singh shall not approach anyone who had testified against him and that he shall surrender his passport to the principal registrar and in case he does not possess a passport, he shall file an affidavit to that effect besides he shall not leave the country without leave of this tribunal.
“As we have only stayed the sentence of conviction to the extent of undergoing the jail sentence, all other punishments like cashiering etc shall continue to remain in operation during the pendency of this appeal,” the AFT had noted.